Villanova falls short at Providence

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Andy Edwards (@DLNAndyEdwards)

Villanova’s losing streak has reached three, and it doesn’t get any easier from here.

Despite a team-high 20 points from JayVaughn Pinkston, who made eight of his 10 attempts from the field, the Wildcats (11-7, 2-3 Big East) couldn’t stop a late rally by Providence as the Friars (10-8, 2-4) stormed back from a seven-point halftime deficit to snatch a 69-66 victory at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

Darrun Hilliard added 14 points for Villanova, but missed a three-pointer that would have tied the game with 14 seconds remaining. Freshman Ryan Arcidiacono hit double figures for the first time in four games, scoring 10 points to go along with four assists. In the end, it wasn’t enough for the Wildcats to get back in the win column, as a season-high 25 turnovers doomed Villanova.

Bryce Cotton, the Big East’s leading scorer, finished with a game-high 24 points for the Friars, who trailed 52-48 with 6:30 to play but turned the tide with a 17-5 run that saw them lead by as many as eight (65-57) with 43 seconds to play. That didn’t stop Villanova from making things interesting down the stretch.

A pair of free throws by Hilliard and a three-pointer by James Bell sandwiched two foul shots by Providence’s Kris Dunn, cutting the deficit to 67-62. Dunn was then called for a technical foul, giving Villanova two shots and the ball. Arcidiacono converted the free throws, but Hilliard misfired on the potential tying three. The Friars collected the rebound, and Dunn and Cotton each split a pair at the line to provide the final margin.

Vincent Council finished with 15 points and five assists for Providence, which also got 13 points and seven rebounds from Dunn. The Wildcats held the Friars to 34-percent shooting from the field (19-56), but were out-rebounded 36-31 and committed a litany of turnovers that short-circuited many of their offensive possessions. Providence, which grabbed 19 offensive rebounds, started the second half on a 13-4 run after trailing 31-24 at the break.

Senior forward Mouphtao Yarou was was held scoreless for the first time all season, missing all five of his field-goal attempts. Meanwhile, Bell’s struggles continued. The junior swingman finished 1-for-6 from the field, all three-pointers, and managed just three points. Over his last five games, Bell is averaging 5.2 points on a combined 8-for-28 shooting.

The Wildcats will have a tough time ending their losing streak. Villanova returns home to face top-ranked Louisville on Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center before hosting Syracuse and traveling to Notre Dame. The Cardinals dropped a 70-68 decision to the Orange on Saturday, and will almost certainly lose their No. 1 ranking, but should come to South Philadelphia motivated to add to the Wildcats’ recent woes. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.

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